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Posts tagged ‘dinner’

DLW: Ditalini Pasta & White Beans with Garlic Rosemary Oil


I have been obsessed with white beans as of late.  No explanation…I just want them, all the time.  Also, tuna.  No idea why.

Luckily, Smitten Kitchen delivered and we whipped up this dish for dinner last week.  She mentioned that it makes enough to feed a couple starving armies…so we halved the recipe and still had plenty of leftovers for lunches during the week!

Ditalini Pasta & White Beans with Garlic Rosemary Oil

½ medium onion, cut into big chunks
½ medium carrot, in big chunks
½ celery stalk, in big chunks
3 garlic cloves, 2 left whole, 1 finely chopped
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
¼ cup olive oil, divided
Coarse or kosh salt
1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 15-ounce can small white beans (such as Great Northern or Cannelini), rinsed
½ pound short tube pasta we used Ditalini
½ tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

Pulse onion, carrot, celery, whole garlic cloves, parsley, and red pepper flakes (to taste) in a food processor until finely chopped. Heat 4 tbsp. oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat and add vegetable mixture to pot. (Quickly rinse, but no need to fully wash, food processor as you’ll use it again shortly.) Season generously with salt. Cook, stirring from time to time, until vegetables take on a bit of color, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook it into the vegetables for another minute. Add 1 cup water and use it to scrape up any bits stuck to the pot. Let simmer until liquid has almost disappeared, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Add beans and 2 more cups of water to the pot and simmer until the flavors meld, about another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente, or still a little firm inside.

Reserve 1 1/2 cups cooking water from your drained pasta.

Transfer one cup of the bean mixture to your rinsed food processor and purée it until smooth, then stir it back into the sauce to thicken it. Add drained pasta and 1/2 cup cooking liquid to bean sauce and cook the mixture together, adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until the sauce coats the pasta, about 1 to 2 more minutes.

To serve: Heat remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in a tiny saucepan over medium-low heat with garlic and rosemary, until sizzling stops. Divide pasta between serving bowls and drizzle garlic-rosemary oil over each.

Next time we make this, we will wait until the very end to add in most of the beans as we found that we liked them a bit toothier and less mushy.  And please, don’t underestimate how critical the garlic rosemary oil is at the end.  I would even recommend making more of the oil for leftovers and dredging some crusty bread through it.

This is a great vegetarian hearty and filling dish despite looking a little bland.  Who knows, next time I might go crazy and throw some lightly dressed arugula on top!

Italian Meatballs & Cavatappi


With record-breaking snowstorms back east, and some 35ºF mornings here…I’ve been in the mood for comfort food.  Spaghetti and meatballs has not been a go-to meal for me…probably because I don’t like spaghetti.  This, in and of itself seems silly…since pasta is pasta…but shapes make a rather large difference.

My problems with spaghetti start with the messy factor…I would like the sauce in my mouth and not splattered on my chin.  Also…I think the pasta shape should mirror the shape of whatever else is in the dish…and meatballs do not look like spaghetti.  Then there’s the fork issue…it seems like eating spaghetti with a fork should come with instructions like using chopsticks in a japanese restaurant – step 1: take a deep breath and prepare to stab your fork into the pile of innocent long thin noodles; step 2: Twist fork in circles with tines braced against the bottom of the dish until an appropriate bite-size amount of noodles are twirled around; step 3: Lift fork without noodles sliding, falling or unraveling off of the fork and insert into mouth; step 4: chew spaghetti and meatball bite and savor each delicious morsel…oh wait…you forgot the meatball.  See?  It’s complicated.

Let me simplify.  Don’t use spaghetti when you are making spaghetti and meatballs!

I based this recipe loosely on Ina Garten’s Real Meatballs & Spaghetti from her Family Style cookbook.  I halved the recipe for the meatballs as I only had 1 lb. of ground beef in the house, but made the full recipe for the sauce.  I deem it a very successful recipe and know that it will become a favorite!  (just my humble opinion)  🙂

Italian Meatballs & Cavatappi

Makes 10 golf-ball-size meatballs

For the meatballs:
1 pound ground beef
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. dry bread crumbs
1 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1½-2 tbsp of whole milk
¼ cup of minced onion
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 heavy tsp. of ketchup
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 large egg, beaten
¼ cup of warm water
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon good olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
1 large shallot, chopped
1½ tsp. minced garlic
½ cup good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. of dried Italian herbs (like Penzey’s)
dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsps. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Put the beef, breadcrumbs, parsley, parmesan, onion, garlic, ketchup into a bowl together.  Beat the egg and add the 1/4 cup of water and beat together a bit more.

Pour the egg/water mixture over the top of the beef et al., and mix together with your hands.  Mix gently and not for very long.  Overworking the mixture will cause the meatballs to be tough.  Once I get a sense of the consistency of the meat mixture, here’s where I decide how much of the milk I will add.  I used about 2 tablespoons of whole milk.  It’s a judgement call…not enough moisture or fat…and the meatballs will be dry…too much and they can fall apart or end up spongy.  Roll the mixture into balls…size is up to you…I went with golf-ball size…assuming two meatballs per person for portion size.

Heat olive and vegetable oil together in a pan on the stove top and place the meatballs in gently, making sure to not crowd them.  It’s better to cook them in batches than to squeeze them all in.  You want the meatballs to brown, not to steam.

Place the pan in the 400° oven for 25 minutes (less if they are smaller).  After 25 minutes, pull them out and give each meatball a turn, turn the oven up to 450° and then put them back in to brown a bit more for about 5 minutes.

Once browned, remove them from the pan and set aside.  Place the pan back on a burner…being highly aware that the pan is hotter than the sun…so don’t touch the handle!  I like to rest a hotpad on the handle as a reminder since I have a (small) history of burning myself when I ought to know better!

Now that you’ve got your pan back on the heat, pour in the tablespoon of olive oil and heat a bit before adding the chopped shallot and onion.  Cook until the onion and shallot are translucent, probably about 5 minutes.

Add in the minced garlic and cook for another minute or so.  While the onions were sautéing, I prepped my tomatoes.  I had a can of whole peeled tomatoes and I wanted them chopped…so I pull them out, gave them a rough chop, making sure not to lose any of their juice and put them back in the can, ready for use.

Next pour in the wine and deglaze the pan, making sure to scrape up all the delicious bits stuck on the pan from the meatballs and the onions.

Now it’s time to add the tomatoes and all of their liquid.

And it’s also time to add in the parsley, italian seasoning, salt and pepper and the dash of Worcestershire sauce.

Let the sauce come together for 10 minutes or so, before adding the meatballs back in and cooking for another 10-20 minutes.  The timing really depends on how quickly you want dinner on the table…as long as the meatballs are cooked through and warmed back up…you are good to go!

Serve over freshly cooked al dente cavatappi (we used De Cecco brand) and top with a sprinkling of fresh grated parmesan and some minced parsley.  This goes amazingly well with a buttery slice of garlic bread! Just saying!

Buon Appetito!

(but seriously…am I alone in my lack of love for spaghetti…?)

Hybrid Enchiladas with Green Chiles & Cheese


I am currently jealous of any person currently living in an area where the daily high temperatures are not rising above 70º.  Here in southern California…we’re still in the thick of the heat.  Today we had a major dip and the high was only 84º!  Last week, husband and I were enjoying a late summer vacation around the Teton region in Wyoming and Idaho and although it was certainly cooler…it was still ridiculously hot for this late in September.  Wild fires still abound and our days were filled with smoky haze.  However the brisk early mornings and waning light left me hungry for fall weather.  Casserole weather.

I love enchiladas as they tend to include cheese (love), corn tortillas (love) and they beg to be topped with the quintessential Tex-Mex garnish of sliced canned black olives.

No, these hybrid enchiladas will not get you more miles to the gallon…but they are a mixture of enchilada preparation styles from both my family and my husband’s family.

Woody likes his enchiladas on the spicy-side and I prefer it a bit milder so I tried to maximize the flavor of the sauce while not creating a volcanic sauce that would ruin the fun of my dinner.  Truly…I winged it.

In its most basic form, enchilada sauce is tomato sauce that has been flavored with chilies, onions and spices.  There are plenty of recipes out there to use as a starting point.  You’ll also notice from the above photo, that I used a portion of prepared enchilada sauce in making my sauce.  I tend to not love the sauces straight from the can, but they can enhance the depth of your sauce and make things a bit more complex.

Enchiladas can be made with flour or corn tortillas.  I like both, but they are very different, with corn being more authentic.  To use corn tortillas and make them malleable, you need to soften each one in a bit of hot vegetable or canola oil first.  Heat a shallow fry pan that is at least the size of your tortillas with ¼” of oil in the bottom.  You are not trying to make crispy tortillas…rather they should soak up a bit of oil which will make them easy to roll without tearing and ripping.  Using tongs, slip each tortilla into the warm oil for no more than 5-15 seconds per side and stack warm on a plate.  It’s best to do more than you think you will need so you don’t have to go back and repeat this step.  When the oil gets low, just add a bit more and let it heat back up.  If the oil is spitting, it is probably too hot.

I filled these enchiladas with jack cheese and Ortega green chiles.  Cut the cheese into ¼ to 1/3 inch logs and slice the canned whole green chiles into lengthwise slices.  Place one of each onto a tortilla and roll tightly and place the seam side down into a baking dish.  Continue until you have filled the pan and squished in as many as possible.

While I was building the enchiladas, my sauce was bubbling away on the stove.  When the pan is filled, it is time to lade the sauce over the enchiladas.

I started the sauce with sautéing a thinly sliced onion which is why it looks a bit chunky and stringy.

Smooth sauce over the top, letting it settle into the nooks and crannies.  Tope with shredded cheese and (of course) sliced black olives.

Now it’s time to bake this delicious pan of cheesy goodness.  You can also wrap it with foil and freeze it at this point – I had enough to feed an army…so I froze a whole second pan for sometime in November!  Bake at 350º for 20-30 minutes (from frozen it will probably need more like 45-60 minutes – and you can put it directly in a cold oven, and that way you can avoid the risk of your dish breaking from temperature shock as it will heat up with the oven).  If it is browning too quickly, cover with a piece of foil.

Let it stand for a few minutes once you remove it from the oven and then serve it up with your favorite sides.  We went with beans and a little garnish of fresh cilantro and a dollop of sour cream (which didn’t make it into the photo).

Side note:  I out-spiced myself with this particular dish.  In my attempt to satisfy my husband’s need for some heat…I went a bit far with the chiles, cayenne and chile powder.  Oops!  At least one of us loved it!  The sour cream helped me cool down the dish for my pathetic pallet.  

What are you cooking now that the weather has turned (in most places)?

 

 

Fast & Fresh (no-cook) Tomato Sauce with Pasta


We are hitting the end of the summer produce season, and I am guessing that a few of you out there have already felt the first hints of fall with some crisp mornings, the sun setting a bit earlier and of course the changing of routines with the commencing of school and shifting away from the relaxed days of summer work.

I am in denial about this particular change of seasons and refuse to shift my culinary tastes quite yet.

The end of summer typically also means a surplus of a few items…the most famous of which are zucchini and of course, tomatoes!

This dish is the answer to an overabundance of tomatoes and a seeming under-abundance of time.

3-4 medium/large tomatoes (or equivalent of cherry tomatoes, roma’s etc.)
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bunch of fresh basil
½ tsp. dried oregano
2-3 tbsp.’s of olive oil (more to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
1 package of fresh pasta (refrigerated – like Buitoni or similar brands)
parmesan cheese to garnish

  1. Chop tomatoes into roughly the same size chunks – I quartered the cherry tomatoes and used that as a size guide for cutting up the larger tomatoes.  Put all the chopped tomatoes into a bowl and include all the tomato juice and liquid that leaked out during the chopping.
  2. Chop or mince the garlic – the smaller the pieces, the more pungent the garlic flavor will be.
  3. Julienne the basil leaves, leaving a few whole for the final garnish.
  4. Add the basil, garlic and the dried oregano to the tomatoes and liberally salt and pepper the mixture.
  5. Drizzle the olive oil over the mixture and stir gently to combine and let the flavors start to marry.

Resist the urge to eat this by the spoonful!

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.  Once the pasta has drained, put it back into the pot and dump in the tomato mixture and mix the two together.  This is a good time to add a bit more olive oil and salt.  Remember to always season dishes as you are cooking, and taste it along the way.

Serve up the pasta into bowls and top with grated parmesan and a few leaves of basil.  A slice or two of crusty bread is a nice accompaniment to help sop up all the garlicky tomato essence.  This dish is best enjoyed al fresco even if you have to throw on a heavy sweater and long pants to keep warm!  🙂

Do you have dishes that act as a protest to seasonal change?  A culinary equivalent of indian summer?  What are your favorite recipes to utilize all of those late summer vegetables that seem to grow exponentially quicker as the days of summer ween?

Dinners…that don’t look much like dinner!


Have you ever had so many events and nights out that all you want to do is just veg on the couch at home?  Obviously you need to eat, but putting much effort into dinner…especially anything that would typically look like a dinner, is just way to hard.

We’ve had a lot going on this last month or so…in fact sometimes May/June tends to feel a lot like the holidays when you find yourself eating nibbles from the hors d’oeuvres tables and cookies and having perhaps a few more drinks during the week than you planned…when following an ‘eat healthy plan’ seems all but impossible.

Our solution – popcorn, apples and cheese.  My husband grew up with this meal as a Sunday night tradition.  It’s easy, feels like a treat and doesn’t require a lot of planning or shopping!

As mentioned here, I crave salty snacks…and popcorn is one of my favorites.  In fact, I would dare say that our air popper is one of our most used small kitchen appliances.  This particular evening, I popped up 3/4 cup of popcorn, drizzled it with melted salted butter and sprinkled it with salt.  I sliced up a Gala apple and some Dubliner cheddar cheese and settled in on the couch to watch some indulgent reality TV.

It is the perfect antidote to an overly busy social calendar…and feels somewhat healthy too!

What is your go-to, quick fix, alternative-to-typical-dinner meal?

DLW :: Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Risotto & Sautéed Kale


Roast a pork tenderloin, make some risotto, sauté some kale and top it all with a little Parmesan…and poof – dinner appears!

Okay, it wasn’t actually that quick, but it was delicious and we had some leftover pork for a meal later in the week!  (stay tuned for details on that…)

What did you eat last week?

 

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